The New York Yankees find themselves in a unique situation this off-season. Their catcher position isn’t under scrutiny due to lack of talent but because they’re brimming with choices.
José Treviño, the team’s regular starter, experienced a setback this season due to a right wrist tear. Though 30 years old, he had a shortened stint this year, playing only 55 games. Despite registering below-average offensive statistics, his defensive prowess is unquestionable. His metrics from this year and the last attest to his stellar performance behind the plate. However, Treviño’s absence has given rise to other potential replacements.
Yankees’ Rising Star: Austin Wells
The Yankees have Kyle Higashioka, Ben Rortvedt, and notably, Austin Wells to consider. The trajectory suggests a potential Treviño and Wells duo in the future. The 24-year-old Wells showcased promise in his 19 MLB games this season, hitting impressive numbers and projecting a significant home run pace. While he might have some defensive hiccups, Wells is proactive.
In fact, over a 162-game season, Wells was on pace for 34 homers. Of course, that number would likely decrease by a significant amount since catchers usually don’t play over 120 games, but Wells could theoretically hit over 20 homers per season, which will give the Bombers fantastic value at the bottom of the order.
There are some minor concerns with his defensive makeup, having posted a 47.5% strike rate and -2 blocks above average over 751 opportunities. Ultimately, he still needs to work on his defensive measures, but he is spending the off-season down in Tampa working at the Yankees facility to continue his development. All the signs of a young and hungry player are being displayed through Wells at this very moment, who has a real opportunity to lock down the starting catcher position long-term.
Speaking to NJ Advance Media, Wells mentioned the advantages of training in Tampa:
“In Vegas, there isn’t really a convenient baseball training facility with guys who are constantly there working. We have a great crew down there, a great support staff that I’ll be able to use whenever down there. So I think it gives me the best opportunity for success during the offseason.”
If Wells can merge slightly above-average defense with his evident offensive prowess, he has the potential to be among the best catchers in the sport. The ideal scenario for the Yankees would see Wells evolve into a player who provides both stellar defense and robust offense, which is often a rarity for the catcher position.
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The Future Game Plan
For the immediate future, the Yankees might choose to continue Ben Rortvedt’s grooming in Triple-A. On the other hand, Kyle Higashioka, with just one arbitration year left at age 33, might be on the trading block. Given his consistent performance, especially his above-average defense and consistent home runs over the past three seasons, he could attract potential trade suitors.
It’s not often that teams have an abundance of talent in a single position. For the Yankees, their catcher surplus is a delightful dilemma. With strategic decisions, they could optimize this strength for seasons to come.